A Plague Tale Interview - What Makes It Unique?
A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action-adventure title that launched last week for PC, PS4 & Xbox One and immediately won over fans and critics alike. The game features a heartwrenching journey of two young children in the world ripped apart by war and suffering from plague. Just before the release of the game we had an opportunity to interview Kevin Choteau, the Game Director on A Plague Tale: Innocence, and ask a couple of questions.
MMORPG: Introduce yourself. What was your work on the game?
Kevin Choteau: I’m Kevin Choteau, the Game Director on A Plague Tale: Innocence. My role is to define the concept of the game and drive the team in this direction. I listen to feedback and adjust the game direction accordingly.
MMORPG: In the dev diary, you've pointed out that it was decided pretty early that the game will have two siblings as protagonists. How did you come to this decision?
Kevin: The team has wanted to tell something a little more personal for quite some time. As the studio has evolved, some of us have had kids, built a home, and grown older… We wanted to speak about family bonds. And in the meantime, we had the idea to tell a tale, something with realistic roots.
We first came up with A Plague Tale while looking at ancient engravings inspired by Hansel and Gretel, The Piper of Hamelin, Tom Thumb, etc. Not only were they deeply rooted in tragic moments of History, the engravings we saw were bleak and striking. Each one portrayed children facing some of mankind’s deepest fears. This is where our idea of letting players see the world through the eyes of children came from: what happens when a child’s innocence is challenged with desperate situations? How can a child cope with it? Where would they find the strength to carry on where so many adults have already given up?
From a purely creative standpoint, the first seal of the story is definitely the special bond between the two siblings. We wanted to play with the contrast between their strong emotional relationship, and the brutality of medieval times. This is the starting point of the tale we want to tell: the friction between the innocence of young orphans lost in a grim, cruel world.
MMORPG: Violence against children is something people are very affected by. What do you think the impact of using children as protagonists in your game will be?
Kevin: The game will be violent, even if you take care. It is a tale we are talking about here. Sometimes cruel, sometimes serene, but always with a strong moral or lesson.
That said, we do hope people will receive the game for what it is: a story. We really hope that players will feel the same way about this story as they would for Andersen’s, Grimm’s or Perrault’s.
MMORPG: Did you choose the action-adventure genre with some core stealth elements to exaggerate the children's frailty in the world?
Kevin: Stealth does accentuate the feeling of frailty but it was more thought as a friendly reminder to the player than as a way to show Amicia’s and Hugo’s weaknesses.
Their vulnerability is shown from the very start of the game, and stealth changes nothing about this. It does however help with some reckless players who tend to forget they’re leading a teenager and a five-year-old across battlefields and lands ravaged by plague.
MMORPG: Were there any technical difficulties the team had to wrestle to make the double protagonist feature work? Holding Hugo's hand, then letting him go to do his own thing, like open a door for Amicia, etc.?
Kevin: It’s well known that it’s super hard to manage AI companions in a game. In our game we decided to use the hand holding to create an emotional link between Amicia and Hugo and to play with it (him running away, letting him go, ask him to do things, etc.). It’s a big challenge since you must adjust the majority of you interactions to be performed with one hand (since the other is holding Hugo), traversal interactions must be performed by two characters without slowing the pacing of the game down too much, and any path (like doors) must fit two characters.
MMORPG: In the dev diaries, you've spoken at length about the rats and the Inquisition that Hugo and Amicia will have to face. Are there other, perhaps less direct, dangers on their way?
Kevin: The whole world is dangerous for the De Rune children, and they’ve never seen the outside world before, or at least very much of it. But speaking of gameplay only, you won’t have to worry about survival features such as stamina, hunger, or cold for instance. We didn’t want to do something that would bring you out of the experience, since story had to remain in centre stage.
MMORPG: From one playthrough to the other, is there more than one ending? Can your decisions affect the outcome of certain quests?
Kevin: No, there’s only one end to the story. Besides, if you play in original version (English audio), you might want to give a shot to the French version also after you finish the game as the actors did had a different input. That is another way to relive the story.
MMORPG: Is there a specific cadence to the way the game plays out? For instance, stealth -> action -> respite?
Kevin: Not really, there is of course a rhythm: you’ll have moments to breathe - or it wouldn’t be playable, you know, but there is no particular cadence of gameplay.
MMORPG: How does the gameplay change from start to finish? Do puzzle elements become harder, stealth approach more difficult / varied, etc.?
Kevin: The player’s approach will eventually change as Amicia gets a larger range of options and you have a better knowledge of enemies as a player. Of course, the difficulty level will rise exponentially but that’s the same for every game.
MMORPG: Please, add anything else you would like to.
Kevin: These three years of development have been three years of pure adrenaline. Sometimes it was tough, sometimes it was easier, but it never was anything but a thrill. We’ve worked as a team and we hope to succeed as a team. There’s this electricity right now in the air, loaded with excitement. Also, I have to say, it took 45 people to make this game, but we also received an insane amount of love and support from our community on Asobo socials and they sure are a huge motivation for everyday life at work. So, a big shout-out to them too.